Posted by: worshipguitarguy | September 22, 2006

You Call That Noise Music???

524237.jpgI’m part of a church of about 1,600 here in Southeast Michigan.

Although we’re a good sized church, we’re also pretty conservative.  (As a note, I play mostly for our youth, college age, and Saturday Night Service, which are all more modern music styles.)

I’m sure you’ve guessed that the worship music debate is a big one in our church.  Our Sunday morning music usually consists of piano, organ, choir, orchestra, and a late 1980’s style Hosanna praise team.  And it works for us.  Our music minister is a very talented man who does an amazing job coordinating a worship ministry of about 100 people.  And our music program has some of the most talented singers and instrumentalists I’ve ever met.

But our main services are not the place for modern guitar and drum driven music.  On some occasions our band has led Sunday morning worship, (which obviously has been a huge challenge.)  Now I admit I don’t have all the answers to the modern vs. traditional worship music debate.  But through our experiences we have learned a couple important lessons, (mostly through trial and error. 🙂 )  What follows are five principles that have influenced me: 

1.  Realize There’s a Generational Component to the Feelings of Traditional People:  Many older people grew up in a time where sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll were eternally tied together.  Pastors preached against them.  There were record and 8-track burning parties for rock music.  If it had a beat, it must be bad.  Growing up in a strict Christian school, I sat through more chapel messages than I can remember about the evils of rock music, especially music from that Michael W. Smith guy.  (See Audio Adrenaline’s “Houseplant Song” for a tongue and cheek look…)

Today, people who enjoy guitar and drum driven music come from all different backgrounds.  Many of today’s rock influenced musicians have never been tied up in destructive vices, or they’ve been delivered from them by God.  But old beliefs die hard.  If you’re younger, know that there’s nothing wrong with your passion for progressive music, but not everyone around you believes the same, (especially in churches where for generations, people were taught that progressive music was bad.) 

If it’s still that controversial, just remember this, many older hymns borrowed their melodies from European drinking songs.  😉   

2.  Pack Humility in your Gigbag:  Although not true in all cases, many conflicts between progressive worship bands and conservative audiences come from a worship leader and band who carry the attitude of “it’s my way or the highway…”  This attitude isn’t always intentional.  Sometimes, we carry our frustration with us when we talk with people who don’t like our musical tastes, or even worse… we take it on stage.  Realize that being humble about our God-given talents is crucial when leading people who don’t enjoy our music styles. 

3.  A Good Soundguy (and EQ) Makes a Huge Difference:
I’ve spoken with many solid sound guys who’ve told me that a proper eq can make a sound in the 95 db range very listenable.  Likewise, they’ve said that a poor eq can make sound in the 88-90 range feel loud.  If you have a sound guy working with you who understands good mixing and eq, they’ll win half the battle for you.   

4.  Hymns: Bridge the Gap Between Old and New:
Your bread and butter may be playing modern music, but grab an old song and creatively rearrange it!  Whenever we play in our main services, we take 1 or 2 well known hymns and rework them. 

Earlier this year, we were asked to play on a Sunday morning… we pulled out two newer worship songs and then arranged two old (yet well known) hymns that hadn’t been sung in our church in probably 10 years.  After the service, one conservative senior citizen came up to me and let me know how much she disliked the first two songs, but equally beamed about how blessed she was by the hymns we’d done.  (Even though they were creatively arranged with drums and electric guitar!)   

5.  Get To Know the People Worshipping With You:
At my home church, I have amazing relationships with people across all generations.  Not everyone likes my musical preferences, but hopefully because they know me and my heart, they respect who I am and my musical intentions.    

Likewise, when people see your heart and intentions, it’s much easier for them to accept superficial issues like worship styles.


I’m sure as long as there are multiple generations and personality types in churches, there will be tension between different worship styles.  But as worship leaders and band members, we can take huge strides to bridge the gap for those who like to worship differently than us. 



  1. Great analysis Gerry! Right on target!

  2. Gerry,

    Good points – a few more:
    1) If you try to be all things to all people you end up being nothin’ to everyone. Recognise that you’re never going to keep everyone pleased, and nor should we ever feel like we have to. Corporate Worship is about helping people draw near to God, and removing obstacles to the ‘process’, but that doesn’t mean you’re wedded to pleasing people.
    2) Practise ‘selah’ frequently. This is a relatively new thought for me, but build into the service time to reflect, to ‘stop and listen’. Some of the frustrations of the younger generation are less to do with the music style of hymns, but some of the language that just doesn’t make sense. Hence you can play a hymn even using the instruments and it can work effectively (although see point 1).
    3) God does the talking. So often we think that the success of the service is critically dependent on our music, the style, the technique, the order. Sure, these things are important, but everyone engaging in music and leading in the function of worship on sundays needs to remember that it’s God who will remind people of His presence, speak to His children, and change their hearts.

    Blessings to you bro, I love coming to this site and seeing what God is prompting in you. Be good.

  3. In practical terms, I think that the issue of musical styles and the generation gap is more like cooking a frog. Turn the temperature up slowly and they won’t notice. Manipulative? Maybe. But not unethical or underhanded. I’ve done this with all kinds of musical styles, with the support of my pastors.

    As a result, I am able to fuse Brit-rock, pop-punk, breakbeat samples, ambient electronica and even hip-hop into sets. And many older members in the church are the most enthusiastic supporters of our worship style. Impossible you say? Not at all.

  4. Glad to hear about your fortune Nialie… it’s so wonderful to see all generations standing behind your ministry there. What a blessing!!!

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